At 6th & Jefferson Street in Louisville, Kentucky, is a group of bold citizens, who have setup an occupation like so many groups of citizens across the country. They have organized for more than three weeks and have managed to hold a permitted encampment.
On Friday, I stopped by on Firedoglake’s Occupy Supply tour to report on Occupy Louisville and purchase supplies for occupiers with donations that have come from FDL members and supporters of FDL’s coverage of the Occupy movement. What follows is a report on my visit—
Occupiers I meet first are frazzled and a bit burnt out. I am with Chris and Billy of the Machinists. I introduce myself. When we tell them what we are doing, they are frustrated because we have shown up on a day when permanent occupiers have left the camp to go home and get warm, have a nice meal, sleep in a bed and probably take a shower.
I understand they are worried about how they will be perceived, but, in retrospect, I do not think they had anything to worry about. In chilly and windy weather, at noon when there were very few people, the occupation still held their scheduled General Assembly. They did it for the few people who wanted to know what the occupation was all about—people like myself and the Machinists. [I actually was put to work. The occupation appointed me stack person, which meant I was in charge of keeping track of who was raising their hand and who was next in line to speak. And Billy, a Machinist, was appointed note taker.]
The occupation is a lot larger than it looks because all that is up is a large white canopy tent that the city has permitted the occupiers to have up at all hours of the day. No other tents are up on the site. I find out the city granted the occupiers an overnight permit for the public park they are occupying. From 11 pm to 7 am, they can be in their tents sleeping, but when 7 am comes, they have to be up or police will wake them up. [The larger tent—what I will refer to as the “Command Center”—was donated. There was a different tent before this one that was also donated, but the city would not let them use it. The city threatened to revoke the occupation’s permit so the occupation complied and found a new tent.]
I interview Pam Newman, who serves on the media, finance and facilitating working groups. She told me that it can be stressful and she takes days off and goes home a lot. However, she wants to contribute as much as she can. She has been part of the occupation since it began:
Our first week was spent really trying to figure out how we were going to exist because this was not the space we were occupying initially. Initially, we were occupying a space about two blocks away. That park closed at night and we were not allowed to be in that park overnight so we would pack up all of our stuff and move to another park every single night for about a week.
Like many of the occupations, Occupy Louisville is interested in turning people out. They are particularly focused on earning the support of community groups that have not mobilized their members yet. The occupation has planned a “Seven Days of Solidarity” event from November 13-19 to focus on one reason why they are holding an occupation (health care, banks & fiscal dominance, unemployment, labor, etc).
Newman talks about how this movement is energizing her spirit:
I am really excited. I’m excited to see members from my generation specifically get from behind the computer and outside and really engaging the public and being a part of changing the conversation because I feel like my entire life—like I was born right after Reagan became president the first time—and so my entire life has been this right wing trickle-down economics sort of thing…We’re having an opportunity to change the conversation from money, money, money, money to, what about people? What about changing things so that an individual is able to do better for themselves anywhere? You know, throughout the whole scope, not just a pinnacle of a few people but everyone should be able to thrive.
Chris of the Machinists shares why he supports the Occupy movement:
This movement to me is about a number of things. It’s about the American Dream. It’s about being able to work and basically reap what you sow. And it’s dying for us. It’s being stagnated through by taxation. It’s being stagnated through our workplaces. It’s being stagnated in our education system. I came with a person today I think he was carrying a sign that said I sold my future for an education and I came with a sign today that talks to my senator, Mitch McConnell, who I am asking to raise the taxes on the top 1% Americans.
He adds the movement “basically encompasses everything unions ever stood for.”
I leave with Patty, an FDL member, to go get supplies. The occupation says it could use some tents so we go out and purchase two heavy-duty tents that are also “instant tents.” This means the occupiers will be able to take them down and put them up quickly, something that an occupation that is not allowed to have tents up during the day should find useful.
Patty decides to purchase the occupation a “mummy sleeping bag” that can be used. She also decides to stop at Papa John’s and pick up four pizzas for the occupation. She mentions Occupy Louisville as we are on the way out. A young staff member says she heard something about it on the radio and asks us if we want to take a veggie pizza they have that is “extra.”
We make our delivery and the occupiers are more than happy to have been brought pizza. They are also extremely grateful for the tents. They eat pizza and talk to us a little bit but then return to moving their “Command Center” around so they can begin to properly winterize. They discuss plans for buying pallets that can be put on the ground to keep people warmer at night.
The evening is just beginning. Activity is just about to pick up at the occupation when I have to get into my gold Saturn and take off for the next stop on the tour: Occupy Memphis.
Interview with Pam of Occupy Louisville
Interview with Chris of the Machinists (It was windy so it is difficult to hear what Chris is saying in some parts. I apologize for that.)